Water Health Educator - Promoting advocacy for access to clean water
Issues: Europe (continued)
Poland: Water Pollution
 by Katherine Fite
 
By 1989, Poland was in a deep state of environmental disrepair.  Since post World War II, Polish economy was driven by unregulated use of natural resources. The amount of water and air pollution in Poland was the one of the highest levels in Europe.  Large areas of agricultural land and forest were stripped and destroyed to make room for industry and biodiversity was lost. From 1945 to 1988, wastewater management and environmental protection was under the regulation of 49 principal governments.  Regulations and authority was dispersed and ultimately ineffective.  Major political changes in 1990 led Poland to also evaluate their environmental state and what they found was dismal.  
 
A report published in 1990 showed that 65% of Poland’s river water was so contaminated with pollutants that industrial equipment would erode when placed in the waterway.  In addition, 95% of river water was deemed unsafe to drink.  Almost none of the major Polish cities had an adequate water treatment facility.  About 5% of public, 9% of industrial, and 19% of local drinking water systems were classified as contaminated.  Over half of domestic lakes were damaged due to acid rainfall and the Vistula River was classified as a major polluter of the Baltic Sea.  In addition, inspections done on once Soviet occupied military bases revealed that sewage and fuel leakage was uncontrolled and untreated.  Poland had a serious problem with pollution and water quality. 
 
For the past two decades, Poland has worked diligently to restore its nations environmental integrity.  One of the key challenges they faced was establishing a relationship with economic development with environmental protection. Poland has made great strides by reconstructing industrial and energy sectors and by implementing newly passed environmental policies.  According to an OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) report, Poland has improved in a variety of areas including nature conservation, pollution reduction and integration of environment and economy. 
 
In 1992, Poland but 0.5% of its GDP into just reducing water pollution.  New policies have increased the water quality of domestic, city and industrial discharge.  In addition, Poland has turned to international cooperation to improve its water quality.  A four-year project with the US EPA and the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Food Economy aimed to improve agricultural techniques and water quality.  The project resulted in policy development and education of sustainable farming practices and wastewater management practices.  As Poland continues to reduce further pollution, encourage resource conservation, and economically grow, they will surely create a prosperous and sustainable environment.
 
 Water Scarcity in Greece
by Marlena Bludzien

Greece is a popular tourist destination due to its beautiful beaches and breathtaking mountains. Living in a coastal country, Greeks are surrounded by miles and miles of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. With so much water at the tips of their fingers water scarcity hardly seems to be of any immediate concern. This unfortunately is not the case as fresh water sources supplying the need for drinking and irrigation are disappearing faster than they are replenished. Due to such water shortages, the people of Greece are suffering in multiple ways, especially during the busy tourist season, which their economy thrives from.

Being the driest county in Europe, it is not too much of a surprise that Greece is suffering some major water shortages. Many of the Aegean islands are having to import greater amounts of water each year to keep up with the water needs in Greece. Water reserves have fallen by over 30 percent in Athens alone due to wasteful agricultural practices and drought, and there has been a 70 percent decrease in the replacement of aquifers in the country due to increase in groundwater abstraction. On average, 81% of freshwater usage is reserved for irrigating agriculture which is mainly supplied via drip irrigation methods, a practice that although helps reduce water, can in fact be quite wasteful if not performed properly. With such a high agricultural based economy, it is important that the government in Greece steps up to ensure not only that water is being provided to its people, but that conservation measures are being taken.

Summer marks a season of high water demand not only because of agriculture but largely due to the massive influx of tourists. In fact, the Vocha Plain, an area in Southern Greece, experiences a population growth by 25 percent due to tourism and nearby visitors in the summer months. Along with such an increase in population comes a 38 percent higher need for freshwater than the renewable freshwater supplies allow for. Not only does tourism play such a destructive role but also the residents of Greece themselves are relocating from urban areas to houses with land and gardens, thus increasing the usage of freshwater.

The Greek government has failed to keep its promise to the islands to import water especially during the tourism season. Local governors also complain about how governmental plans to construct desalination plants and convert sea water to drinkable freshwater, have not been followed. The leaders of Greece need to take responsibility for ensuring their people are protected against the preventable scarcity of water. Some of the many “adaptation strategies” recommended by the European Union include raising the price of water to discourage over consumption, improving drought risk management by creating plans for times of water scarcity, and considering alternative “water supply infrastructures.” Further plans to help reduce the impending water scarcity disaster involve recharging the aquifers by using only surface water during wet seasons and thus allowing the aquifers to be replenished by excess surface water, desalinated water, and treated waste water, which will then be used during the dry seasons. It may also be beneficial to relocate some of the agriculture to areas that are abundant in water and thus not taking such a devastating toll on the dry lands of Greece. Crete even has its own set of ideas on how to prevent further water loss by 5 percent, including better irrigation practices and wastewater recycling. To ensure future water security, it is important to take heed to the dangers that can come about if the country continues in the overconsumption of such a precious resource.  
 
 
 
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